Should we solve one-click subscription by turning the HTML off?
August 18, 2005 | co.mments
"As long as people expect one click subscription to depend on websites using the right icons, the right HTML and the right MIME types for their documents it won't become widespread. On the other hand, this debate is about to become moot anyway because every major web browser is going to have a [Subscribe to this website] button on it in a year or so."
I agree with the first bit. The last bit would sound like goll for next year, except I don't use browsers much anymore and will be using them even less next year. Aggregators are so much better than browsers for following content. Really, if you have to read stuff on the web and are using a browser for that, you should try an aggregator. And then, what's the browser good for?
Clicksub as Programmer Usability
There are some suggestions that 'clicksub' (that's not a new jargon play , it's just easier to type than 'one-click subscription') should work like 'mailto:' or 'aim:goaim' links and fire up your default aggregator. Even if you could fix Dare's problem no 1 (infrastructure, do-rightness), that idea doesn't work because doing mail stuff is different than doing web stuff. Whereas rading stuff in a browser isn't suffiicently different to reading stuff in an aggregator. Having clicksub links in browsers to fire up your aggregator for feeds is like having clicksub links in Notepad to fire up Excel for CSV files. Even as a migration strategy it boggles the mind. Until there's one aggregator to rule them all (or at least 87.6% of them), it doesn't make sense for the world to punt on one-click in aggregators because the browsers will save us. They should just get to it directly with an aggregator. [And before anyone tells me that aggregators are unusable they'll have to explain in what way browsers are usable by comparison.]
To be honest, next year's browsers need to be aggregators, else I don't see the point in using them. Why would I get a new browser just so I can subscribe to web feeds?
While the browser wars continue on their merry percentage-driven dance, it all seems somehow kind of pointless and wistful, like having a really satisfying argument over the pros and cons of various 8-track tape players, while the rest of world are sucking down MP3s into their iPods.
Like I said, I just don't read much from a browser anymore. The browser is sort of incidental and using it as a really big startup file for my aggregator feel likes the long way around.
Conclusion: getting a new browser just so I can subscribe to stuff for my aggregator has Programmer Usability written all over it.
HTML as web fluff
Maybe it's time to evolve. I say let's restate the problem.
The idea of turning off the website for this place and just serving up the feed does not look unreasonable at this point. I'm betting 90% of traffic to the archived html files here is only driven because the permalinks and trackbacks point there instead of direct to feed entries. It's slavish. Honestly, permalinking to a html file is starting to look more and more like a bug. Why not point to the XML entries? (Answer: I'm not sure, but in my case it might have something to do with having a Perl Deficit).
So my answer to clicksub - don't start from there. Instead this would be great: at some point weblogs flip over and the HTML website bits will become secondary fluff to the XML content, like how PDFs are secondary web fluff to HTML today. The frontpage would be the feed, the archives would be Atom entries, and instead of a "subscribe to the feed" buttons, you could have "read this stuff in a browser" buttons. And reading this stuff in browser would be retro-cool in a Harris tweed sports jacket kind of way - you could use Lynx at tech conferences to read weblogs and get some respect for keeping it real. It would be strictly for the weekends. Otherwise, no more handwringing about one-click subscriptions - if you got here, you're already subscribed.
Conclusion: problem solved.
Browsers as muscle memory
You can (and probably should) dismiss all this as an irrelevant outlier opinion from one tech user. Or you can take the idea of not using a browser and not having a html based web site as a precursor to how people will interact with content. This is no bad thing. I happen to feel that browsers do not exactly rock as user-interfaces. Browsing is a hokey metaphor, that we only made up because "surfing" was so shockingly awful, anything else would do. Nobody "browses the blogosphere", which I see as progress, although "blogosphere" clearly requires some work.
Web browsers are still good for the following however:
- Testing webapps
- Posting to delicious
- Search forms
1 is a self-fulfilling prophesy (or a death-spiral, I can't tell). 2, well, Better Living Through Shopping obviously, but it's only conditioning to be unlearned - how long can it be before I start buying stuff via an aggregator? 3 and 4 represents feature deficit in today's aggregators, insofar as they they don't have much by the way of tool bar goodness. A Mozilla based aggregator will eventually fix that right up.
Conclusion: at this stage using a browser is muscle memory.
August 18, 2005 11:04 PM
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